New game plan needed for Saturdays at Sanford

Will this scene from last year's New Mexico State game become more common at Sanford Stadium? (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Will this scene from last year's New Mexico State game become more common at Sanford Stadium? (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Last week, the UGA Athletic Association sent out a note to Bulldog Club members offering the opportunity to purchase additional single-game tickets to three home football games — Buffalo, Florida Atlantic and Vanderbilt — as well as single nonrenewable season tickets.

One of my brothers was interested in getting some seats to the Vandy game, so I called the ticket office to place an order. Before I could tell the guy what I wanted, he eagerly inquired, “How many for Buffalo can I sell you?”

I got the feeling they’re just a little anxious about unloading seats to that Sept. 1 game.

And that may not be the only Saturday this season when we’re facing the prospect of empty seats beyond the few thousand in the student section that have been going unused for some time now.

With only the two Tennessee schools and Ole Miss coming to Athens from the SEC and a nonconference slate consisting of Buffalo, Florida Atlantic and Georgia Southern (besides the certain sell-out against the Yellow Jackets), the 2012 home schedule is one of the weakest in memory.

I understand the strategic reasoning behind Greg McGarity’s scheduling philosophy, imported from the University of Florida, and it may indeed increase the odds of UGA winning a championship. But a steady diet of cupcakes isn’t likely to be much help in goosing gate receipts likely already buffeted by a so-so economy.

Combine the lackluster lineup of opponents with saturation TV coverage and the increasing restrictions in recent years on football season parking and tailgating on the UGA campus, and it’s no wonder so many folks (especially young alumni) find it tempting to watch the Dawgs on a 40-inch HD TV rather than make the trek to Athens.

There are, of course, things that could be done to help the situation, besides adding the occasional opponent like Clemson to the lineup. For instance, relaxing the restrictions on tailgating. For many fans, especially the younger alums, that has put a real damper on the game day experience in the Classic City. Who knows, Michael Adams’ replacement as UGA president might decide to loosen things up a bit.

That doesn’t mean I’m advocating no-holds-barred tailgating. Again, I understand UGA’s reasoning there. Before the crackdown a couple of years ago, the North Campus tailgating scene had gotten out of control, with an uncomfortable crush of people crowded into the historic quadrangles and a corresponding increase in garbage left behind and problems with drunks relieving themselves in and around the campus buildings. It was hurting the university’s image.

But surely there’s some middle ground. Perhaps requiring fans to pay to tailgate in a more heavily controlled environment is the answer.

Snoozers against opponents like Coastal Carolina don't help draw fans to Athens. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Snoozers against opponents like Coastal Carolina don't help draw fans to Athens. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Another helpful move would be to shift games like Buffalo or Florida Atlantic to the evening whenever possible. (Frequently, it won’t be possible thanks to the conference television deal, the chief culprit behind some of those ridiculously early kickoff times).

Evening games would help because, even if you still want to tailgate in the current unrestricted areas and aren’t put off by the level of opponent being scheduled, there’s not much time for setting up and enjoying the socializing that is such a part of tailgating with a noon kickoff. Not only would playing these games at night make for a more comfortable experience inside the stadium amid the late-summer heat, it would perhaps entice more folks to come spend the day or night, boosting the Athens economy.

Of course, not everyone would like that solution. Besides the TV complication, one of the main arguments against night games at UGA in the past has been that they inconvenience fans from South Georgia who want to drive home afterward. But the reality is that the majority of the fan base of the future lives in metro Atlanta, not south of the gnat line. And many of them don’t really want to get up before sunrise to rush over to Athens and gulp down a hurried tailgate spread in order to make it into the stadium in time for an early kickoff.

I realize that not every season is going to have as unattractive a home schedule as this year’s. But there are growing challenges facing the athletic association in making sure UGA remains among the attendance leaders in college football, and they need to be addressed.

What are your thoughts on how to improve game days in Athens?

Got something you want to discuss concerning UGA athletics or a question for the Junkyard Blawg? Send it to junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

186 comments Add your comment

Magill

May 9th, 2012
10:16 am

Moobs Johnson

May 9th, 2012
10:18 am

Pay to tailgate? As if they aren’t already milking the fans out of every dollar in their wallet during the games.

VA Dawg

May 9th, 2012
10:21 am

Totally concur with your sentiments regarding rethinking our game day experience. Also, we can’t have another weak sister schedule like this year’s. We are going to be in for national ridicule this fall, especially if we win them all and have to jockey for polling position with other undefeateds. We’re all set up for the Boise State treatment this year.

Noon Game Hater

May 9th, 2012
10:24 am

The noon games are horrible. Why stay after the game and spend money in and around Athens when you can get back home or out to Atlanta where there are more/better restaurants and clubs? Plus, as you mentioned, tailgating before is awful.
We need to learn something from Tech, however, 4 tickets, 4 hot dogs and 4 Cokes doesn’t increase attendance. They’ve been offering that for years and still only sell out our game.

South GA Rules

May 9th, 2012
10:24 am

Yea, Keep alieanating us South Ga fans. We just need our own state anyway. Put the capital in…Moultrie and let the Packers be our new Mascot of our new University

Jay

May 9th, 2012
10:26 am

There isn’t anything UGA can do to get the average fan interested in games against lower tier opponents that kickoff at noon when its 95+ degrees outside. A college football playoff paired with a 9 game conference schedule (plus Tech), and not some strange hybrid of the current bowl system, may remedy the problem.

That way, major college football would no longer be a glorfied popularity contest. Hopefully, victories over lower tier opponents (from the old D1-AA and below) would not count towards a team’s playoff seeding, thus eliminating the tempation to schedule trash games. With a true playoff, the NCAA could also shorten the regular season by a game or two.

G-Dawg

May 9th, 2012
10:28 am

Agreed Moobs. Getting outta hand.

Hiram Dawg

May 9th, 2012
10:28 am

#1 – Go back to allowing students to sell their tickets, so that we have a truly full house.
#2 – Later game times and relaxed tailgating rules.
#3 – Get a new president. Buh-bye Mike Adams.

Still@theKool-aidBAR

May 9th, 2012
10:30 am

We have sold our souls to the God of TV Money. That means fewer fans will come to see crappy games at crappy times. Buffalo at night would really have the fans come out on the Holiday weekend but Noon ain’t going to do it. I hate the JOKE games we are FORCED to pay to see with season ticket packages. The FANS are getting taken advantage of and the schools don’t care.

Joey

May 9th, 2012
10:32 am

Im actualy more inclined to go to a lesser opponent, because then i can bring the young’uns while the rednecks are not out in force

sogadog

May 9th, 2012
10:32 am

Evening games make it difficult for the many Dawg fans from South Georgia and outside the Athens Atlanta metro area (especially those with kids). Our typical game day which starts at dawn in South Georgia involves about seven hours of driving to and from Athens, hopefully a three or four hours of tailgating and attendance of the game. When deciding which games to attend, we first look at the opponent, then time of the game. We usually scratch off night games since we usually wind up getting home around 3:00 am. 1:00pm games work best for us long distance fans.

Sounds like you are writing off South Georgia fans (who I suspect include families of several key football players from South Georgia such as Malcom Mitchell) Should we South Georgia fans (and alumns) apply for FSU tickets? The Dawgs have done pretty well recruiting South Georgia recently, is it wise to write off the South Georgia fan base? We almost lost Harvey-Clemmons because his grandfather would rather drive to UF than Athens from Valdosta.

Jay

May 9th, 2012
10:32 am

What I was trying to say is that UGA’s scheduling and attendance problems are systemic. The current bowl system is beyond the point of being outdated. As long as teams are rewarded for beating vastly inferior opponents, college football fans will continue to be apathetic for nearly 1/3rd of the season.

Jerry

May 9th, 2012
10:33 am

Count me in as one who has been attending games for nearly 40 years and feel like the experience at the statdium is not keeping pace with the other colleges . Sanford needs a major upgrade internally from restrooms to concessions. Also the general gameday experience and excitement in the stadium does not rival some of our closest competitors.

Still@theKool-aidBAR

May 9th, 2012
10:35 am

So Ga Fans it is called get a Hotel Room!

ElvinBishopBand

May 9th, 2012
10:37 am

The entire article just shows the direction of your program but you miss that story with a new starting time for the game as well as a place to eat your pork and beans before the game. Sorry to interrupt , please get back to your denail.

Nothing Could Be Finer

May 9th, 2012
10:37 am

South Carolina usually schedules in-state teams like Wofford or The Citadel or regional teams like East Carolina.

Makes it a little more intriguing for the fans.

Buffalo and Idaho State? Not so much.

Still@theKool-aidBAR

May 9th, 2012
10:38 am

South Georgia fans you are saying you would rather come to a Noon-1pm Buffalo game over an 8pm Clemson game?

Spending money on traveling for Buffalo is dumb. Save that money come to the Night game and spend the money saved on Buffalo on a Hotel Room for Clemson.

sogadog

May 9th, 2012
10:41 am

Kool aid bar try finding a room in Athens on a ball game weekend.

Old Dog

May 9th, 2012
10:47 am

This past year there was the game that finally broke their record of number of games sold out. Of course, if the Dawgs played better, more people would come. Most people don’t want to come see a scrimmage against a high school marching band football team.

Oh yes, AND LET US KEEP OUR GOSH-DARNED LIDS TO OUR COKE AND WATER BOTTLES!!!!!!!!!!

Still@theKool-aidBAR

May 9th, 2012
10:48 am

Why would it need to be Athens? Head out of town and towards home. It is not like there are not thousands of hotel rooms all around Atlanta Metro area.

SSIgator

May 9th, 2012
10:48 am

“the prospect of empty seats beyond the few thousand in the student section that have been going unused for some time now”

Good grief, it has been over thirty years and counting. How long do you think fans are going to fall for this ongoing charade?

Old Dog

May 9th, 2012
10:49 am

But I understand you need those cupcakes to pad Aaron Murray’s stats.

sogadog

May 9th, 2012
10:50 am

South Georgia fans are more likely to attend the Buffalo game at 1:00 pm rather than 8:00 pm. They are not going to invest in travel and motel room expense for a glorified scrimmage against Buffalo. A Clemson night game would be worth the investment.

TV is a problem too. You never know game times until the week of a game. When you learn it is a night game, it is too late to get a motel room in Athens.

VA Dawg

May 9th, 2012
10:51 am

Jerry, there is something to be said for the increased family atmosphere at a non-marquee game. As my handle implies, I live in Virginia and brought my 80 year old parents to such a game a few years ago. It was a great atmosphere for them, sans the rowdiness that comes with the bigger games. For myself however, I really want the big-game vibe between the hedges even if I have to suffer some boorish behavior along the way.

VA Dawg

May 9th, 2012
10:55 am

Sorry, my above comment was intended as a reply to Joey, not Jerry. That said….Jerry, I concur with you completely about our game day experience beginning to pale in comparison to some others (i.e. Florida, Alabama, et al). At one time the Sanford Stadium experience was an elite one, but the bloom has come off the rose some, it seems to me.

BobDawg

May 9th, 2012
10:58 am

SSI… too funny… you put up with it for mega decades before you started sniffing the SEC Chmpship in ‘91…. We are just fine….

FRED Russo

May 9th, 2012
11:03 am

No way i am driving 4 hours to see a cupcake team.

Lindsey

May 9th, 2012
11:16 am

Not too crazy about the thought of paying to tailgate…but I wouldn’t be surprised the day that happens! As a life long Dawg fan I think easing the tailgating restrictions, making it easier to park and having plenty of restrooms with toilet paper in them would make it much more enjoyable for me! GO DAWGS!!

Desert Fox

May 9th, 2012
11:17 am

“What are your thoughts on how to improve game days in Athens?” Win a NC and you’ll fill every seat in the stadium.

ARdawg

May 9th, 2012
11:22 am

Bill King

The solution really isn’t “that” complicated is it? The SEC schedule can’t be helped but the cupcake games can be. The product is lacking when too soft teams are scheduled. McGarity should leave the FL scheduling to FL where they regularly schedule High school teams :) Let’s return to “The Georgia Way” and get tougher non conference games at home. Trust me, ticket sales will take care of themselves

Graydog

May 9th, 2012
11:26 am

They should set up some sort of on-line ticket resale system like the Braves have where season ticket holders can post for sale (at face value only) tickets they cannot use. South GA fans who want to go to early kickoff games against cupcakes can buy my tickets to bring the whole family. South GA folks hate late games because of travel? Post up your seats and we in Atlanta and the younger alums will take ‘em off your hands.

a country boy can survive

May 9th, 2012
11:30 am

what an absolutely pathetic situation in Athens..who is running your program?..it is unbelievable that you ugatards put up with no tailgating, mid-day kickoffs against nobodies..demand more of Mcgarrity..demand more of uga..or just sit there and take it..

ARdawg

May 9th, 2012
11:35 am

I live 5 states away. It takes a good marquee game to get me to Athens. Otherwise I just try to catch the Dawgs as a visitor in a Western division location and hopefully the Fl game. There are plenty of fans to fill Sanford Stadium without us long distance fans and alum if you give them something to watch. Coastal Carolina and Ida St is akin to taking your sister to the prom

VA Dawg

May 9th, 2012
11:43 am

Same here ARdawg! Similar situation here in Virginia, 500 miles from the hedges.

KJ

May 9th, 2012
11:46 am

“.it is unbelievable that you ugatards put up with no tailgating, mid-day kickoffs against nobodies”

It’s also unbelievable that ajc.com puts up with pathetic loser trolls like you, but here we are.

Old Dawg

May 9th, 2012
11:47 am

The extra games were allowed to placate fans demanding a play-off system. No school in their right mind will play too many upper tier D-I non-conference teams when they have 8 or 9-game conference schedules.

Let’s hope the regular season goes back to 11 games when a play-off system is set up. The current bowl system is out-dated as is the regular season.

Get it fixed or more stadiums across the country will have empty seats.

Still@theKool-aidBAR

May 9th, 2012
11:48 am

it looks like the Dawgs will have 1 game with a full stadium this year. Maybe Vandy cause they are a Powerhouse now and Grantham will be running his mouth. Dooley’s Vols will not be full unless they are winning.

UGa has fallen so far that the TECH will be the only Full House. That is pretty bad. If UGa is undefeated I guess Vandy and Tenn will be full but I doubt it at this point.

claytondawg

May 9th, 2012
11:48 am

I agree with many of you in that scheduling these “cupcakes” during the season does not help the Dogs’ image. At least we have Clemson coming back next season. Take out the Buffalos and Florida Internet School for something more attractive for both tv and fans in the stadium. What a concept, huh?

jablonski

May 9th, 2012
11:49 am

Stopped getting my tix after the sweet 6-7 season. No need to spend hours in the car to see crap. Now, i enjoy the games on my 55″ HDTV…and the drinks flow freely.

VA Dawg

May 9th, 2012
11:50 am

Even with our self-confessed room for improvement, UGA is still obviously the envy of many opposing fans since they make the time to comment on us. (Or do they have nothing else going on in their lives?) I couldn’t imagine taking the time to monitor other schools’ message boards and posting anything to them. Rival programs are just somebody to play. Otherwise, they are irrelevant in my life. Maybe we should take it as a positive that rival hater fans spend so much time fixated on us.

Aaron Murray

May 9th, 2012
11:59 am

Why did you ban me Bill?

Frank Lane

May 9th, 2012
12:01 pm

I love the comment, “gnat line.”

Aaron Murray

May 9th, 2012
12:01 pm

Cool, back on!! It would not be so bad beating all the cupcakes if we win against the real competition. Big difference between McGarity’s plan at UF and here. They beat the hard competition in the real games and let the slaughters just be either a drunk fest or a game to take the kiddies.

Pay for tailgating? How about we just start winning, that is what will get the fans into a frenzy. NO more happy little 9-3 seasons, been enough of those. Gotta win the crystal.

On that subject, could someone mail me some heels to cut down my INT rate? Hehehehehe, couldn’t resist.

Mobile Dawg

May 9th, 2012
12:21 pm

Problem with scheduling high profile, interesting games is we don’t have a “head coach” that can orchestrate all the things that go into making a “championship program”, so we’re not competetive. Still beating a dead horse, but until Richt proves me, and others wrong the beat goes on. He can’t, or maybe won’t, assemble a “state of the art conditioning, nutritional program and hold the players accountable. He can’t or won’t hire a “bonafide” OC. He falls short on the Oline every year, that’s both coaching, and recruiting, and our special teams have killed us. He gets an A for improving the defense. He’s a short sighted coach, spends way to much time trying to put out fires vs planning for future needs, and he can’t win a big game. When my interest wanes, I’m sure there are huge numbers of others feeling the same. If he doesn’t produce this year, hopefully he retires.

GNAT line

May 9th, 2012
12:21 pm

easy schedule might equal NC but it is hard to justify a NC game if you play nobody that ranked. A good chance a one loss team would play before UGA.

Chris

May 9th, 2012
12:28 pm

Make the Florida rivalry a home and home serious and say to hell with Jacksonville.

Done.

Still@theKool-aidBAR

May 9th, 2012
12:37 pm

CHRIS getting KILLED by So Ga dWags in 3……….2…………….1…………

Columbus Dawg

May 9th, 2012
12:41 pm

First of all, I doubt seriously that the members of the Elvin Bishop band would want a D.A. like you using their band name on a blog, spouting off like the blithering idiot that you are. Talking about the direction of the UGA program, ect, blah blah blah. Second of all, it is hard to get a read on what program you actually support. Could be a Tech fan trolling as a toothless wonder from Phenix City, but who knows. What a moron.

Pitbull

May 9th, 2012
12:48 pm

Yada Yada Yada

Argentina Blue

May 9th, 2012
12:50 pm

Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech look to be the two toughest home games for Georgia this year.